Maj. Ernest Law helped soldiers in the Persian Gulf to cope with fear and horror.
"I helped top officers who had men hurt or killed, men who were there to witness it," said Major Law, a member of the 531st Army Reserve Medical Detachment. "I counseled guys who were afraid of not getting back home, guys who wondered about things like who would raise their children if they didn't get back home."
Yet, as he helped to ease the stress and fatigue of men and women back from the front lines in the war against Iraq, Major Law had his own family to worry about and his own spirits to keep afloat.
Who counseled the counselors of war?
Yesterday, back home after five months in Saudi Arabia and still in fatigues and combat boots, Major Law answered by pointing to relatives sitting in his Northwest Baltimore living room: "The people you see in this room."
It was their cards and letters and packages that helped, he said; the pictures of his 10-year-old twin sons, Omar and Kemar, and word about their report cards and activities in Boy Scouts.
And when they needed an extra lift in between packages from home, the counselors helped one another.
"In a situation like that, there are going to be friends lost and friends hurt, and still we had a job to do, and in order to do it we had to continue on," said Major Law, who heads the social service department at the Baltimore City Jail in civilian life.
Major Law and a half-dozen colleagues from the 531st flew into Baltimore-Washington International Airport about 10 a.m. yesterday on a short flight from Philadelphia. He flew to the states before dawn yesterday from Germany.
His wife,Julia,the twins and a dozen relatives waited for him at the end of a long, gray-carpeted airport corridor called Pier D.
Forced to stay behind security lines, they waited and waited until a familiar figure was seen far away at the other end, moving slowly toward them, coming into focus.
"Here comes somebody!" one person shouted.
"Soldiers! I can see soldiers!" said another.
"There he is, that's HIM!" yelled Mrs. Law, and with that declaration the waiting area erupted into whoops and hollers as Maj. Ernest Edwin Law, family man, Boy Scout leader, and annual trooper in the March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon, was really back home -- back in the arms of his loved ones.
Later in the day, back home to good food and cold drinks, he remembered the last yards of a nearly half-year journey that took him to the other side of the world.
"I just floated down that corridor," he said. "And when I heard the screams and joyous sounds, I floated a little more."
Standing on the painted concrete porch of his brick row house, the 53-year-old Army Reserve major leaned against a porch column and watched his boys play with a bat and ball on a cool April afternoon.
"Just to look at that blacktopped road is something to appreciate -- you go over there and it's nothing but dust," he said, staring at the 3700 block of Marmon Avenue,where a church bus passed by and people stuck their heads out the window to yell his welcome home.
"This war has changed the Law family dramatically," he said. "I'm not going to stop the things I did before -- I'm still going to be a leader in my sons' Boy Scout troop and I'm still going to walk for the March of Dimes, but I'll be dwelling more on the things I thought were insignificant before.
"I took for granted before that I came home every day at a certain time, would look over my shoulder and there would be my boys coming home from school and later on my wife would be home at the same time every night.
"What am I going to change?" he said. "I'm going to change not taking my wife out to dinner as much as I should, and not telling her I love her as much as I should.
"After you're married so long, you just forget how important those things are."
"And we'll be going to church more as a family and thank God for the blessings he has bestowed on us," he added.
"A person would have to believe in God to get them through something like this. Coming back to America was a relief."